At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent: Who Are We to Dictate Terms?

     And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35)
            We pick up today at the point where I left off with Simeon a few blog posts ago. Here he says some tough words to Jesus’ mother Mary. While many people think of Jesus as a sweet child and a unifying public figure, Simeon here seems to indicate that Jesus will rough up the social structure. Nothing is safe.
            Is this cruel of Simeon? Not at all. He at least lays out exactly what we can expect from Jesus. Hard moments may lie ahead; dark journeys may follow. Even Jesus would be no stranger to conflict. But this is what will be. And before we start to complain and say, “This isn’t the kind of Jesus I envisioned!”, we have to face this reality: Who are we to dictate terms to Jesus? Who are we to say how he should conduct his ministry in our lives?
            A number of years ago, a professor in a graduate school in the Deep South[1] was besieged by complaints from many students. You see, they were approaching the final exam in the course, and the students couldn’t figure out how to get started on studying for the test. So the professor, in a moment of academic tenderness and wondrous compassion, went through the semester’s worth of material that night. The next time the class met, the professor handed out a comprehensive study guide of some eighty-five questions. And now the complaints erupted in earnest! Why? Because the students griped there was too much information to study for the final exam! Was the professor cruel? I think not.[2] The students now were at least aware of what they needed to study. They had been brought face to face with the honest truth. And who were they to dictate to the professor how the exam should go?
            That is a little bit like following Jesus. We may read the Gospels and discover a wildly unpredictable Savior,[3] or we may see how our relationship with Christ creates more lurches and bumps than smooth paths. You know what? The Bible at least is honest about what you can expect. We are not designed to dictate how our spiritual journeys should go. But we can discover a Messiah whose grace and mercy run wild, crazy and free. And while living that life may seem like being a kite in a hurricane, for me it certainly beats the alternative!

[1] Yes, this was my father. It explains a bit about my quirks. Read on.
[2] And I’m not saying this just because he’s my dad!
[3] To get a good picture of this, read Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew.

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